DH News Service , Mangaluru
The renovated St Mary’s Orthodox Syrian Cathedral, Brahmavar is the only Konkani Orthodox Church in the entire world with a 125 years of glorious past as part of the 2,000-year-old Indian Church, namely the Indian (Malankara) Orthodox Church, which was founded by St Thomas the Apostle in 52 AD in India, one of the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ.
It was the epicentre of independent Catholic Mission in the late 19th century. It is from here that the mission spread to numerous places in India (Goa, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala etc.), Ceylon, Far East Asia, Europe and America.
The Cathedral has six chapels in Kolalgiri, Kurady, Sastan, Kandlur, Hosangady and Hulikel, Shivamogga and five congregations in Mumbai, Bengaluru, Mandya, Kuwait and UAE.
As much as its a centre of religious fervour, it is also a symbol of cosmopolitanism. The Cathedral has around eight educational institutions ranging from Kindergarten to Post Graduate studies.
Brahmavar Konkani Orthodox Christians are majorly descendants of migrants to the Coastal area of Karnataka from Goa and Maharashtra. A significant proportion of Christian Konkanis trace their origin to the Apostolic tradition of St Thomas and St Bartholomew. There is a tradition that Christianity existed in and around Brahmavar due to the apostolic activities of St Bartholomew. But, very few evidences substantiate the claim.
In 16th century and later, with the influx of many western Christian missionaries, Konkanis in Goa and Mangaluru were converted to Western denomination, of which it is stated that it included the Native Apostolic Christians, who joined the sect.
With the internal rift in this Western Church in 1880s, as many as 5,000 families in Brahmavar moved out of the Western denomination and formed the ‘Independent Catholic Mission’ under the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church.
The reason behind joining the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, was the fact that it was the only Apostolic Indigenised Church established in India in 52 AD by St Thomas, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ, and had its own long history of revolt against the Western colonial powers.
In 1887, Fr Alvares, travelled from Ceylon and arrived at Kalianpur, near Udupi, a village in South Kanara district. He moved out from there to a nearby village, Brahmavar, took 97 cents of land on lease from a local friend at a lease fee of 50 paise (eight aanas) per year and built a small temporary thatched shed with coconut fronds for a roof and dedicated it to ‘Our Lady of Miracles’ for worship. He celebrated the first Holy Mass in the said shed in 1887.
The same church later came to be known as St Mary’s Orthodox Syrian Church. In 1888, Fr Alvares founded the Brahmavar Mission. He later procured 14 acres of land from the then British Government at Brahmavar for his mission activities in the name of St Mary’s Syrian Church, adjacent to the leased land. He then constructed a new Church in the new plot acquired by him. Later, the leased plot of 97 cent land was earmarked for the purpose of cemetery for the new Parish church.
The same plot is still used as a cemetery and the temporary thatched shed constructed by Fr Alvares, where he celebrated the first Holy Mass, still stands there as a monument.
On July 29, 1889, Fr Alvares was consecrated as Archbishop of India, Goa & Ceylon (excluding Malabar) with the title Alvares Mar Julius I at the Old Seminary, Kottayam. Soon, Archbishop Alvares named Blessed Fr R Z Noronha as the first Vicar of St Mary’s Cathedral. He offered the first Holy Mass on the Easter of 1889 at the temporary thatched shed. Later on Fr Noronha constructed a church in 1889 at the same place, after acquiring 14 acres of land from the then British. He even started a school to educate the locals.
Priest Fr P G Koshy established more schools around Brahmavar and built Chapels. In 1950, he completed the renovation work of the Old St Mary’s Cathedral. It was during the tenure of Fr Lawrence D’souza, that the foundation for the renovation of the present Cathedral was laid by the Brahmavar Diocesan Bishop H G Yakob Mar Elias on August 4, 2013.
The Primate of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church Baselios Marthoma Paulose II (Catholicos of the East and the Malankara Metropolitan) will lead the consecration of the newly renovated cathedral on January 12.
He will be joined by the Brahmavar Diocesan Metropolitan H G Yakob Mar Elias; H G Geevarghese Mar Coorilose, Metropolitan, Diocese of Bombay; H G Joseph Mar Dionysius, Metropolitan, Diocese of Kolkota; H G Geevarghese Mar Yulios, Metropolitan, Diocese of Ahmadabad and H G Abraham Mar Seraphim, Metropolitan, Diocese of Bengaluru.
As part of the inauguration, a ‘Hore Kannike’ procession was held on Thursday from Akashvani. The second part of the Consecration prayers will begin at 6.30 am on January 12. A public meet will be held which will be presided by H G Yakob Mar Elias (Bishop, Brahmavar Diocese).
The meet will be inaugurated by Catholicos His Holiness Baselios Marthoma
Paulose II. Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy will take part in the programme.
The Church has a blend of Portuguese, Kerala and modern architecture. The front elevation, with rising in the middle, is a reminder of Portuguese architectural influence over the Konkani Christians of Mangaluru.
The huge blue dome above the altar is the influence of Orthodox Church architecture, found mainly in Byzantine Churches. The Front Stone Cross, Seven step Stone oil lamp and the 40 ft Steel Flag Post with Golden coat bring in the feel of Classical Indian/Kerala architecture.
Inside the Church, there is are stained glass paintings, a key feature of European Churches. The Altar is completely decorated with wooden designs.
St Mary’s Orthodox Syrian Cathedral, Brahmavar houses the relics of Blessed Alvares Mar Julius and tomb of Blessed R Z Noronha, who were declared as Regional Saints (Blessed) in 2013 and 2015 respectively.